Next up in the Pinch Hitters series is Dan Barnett, who offered an outside perspective — a very outside perspective — on being a Yankees fan.
Truth is, Sam and I got several proposals asking to write a guest post about being a Yankees fan from far away. Some from middle-America, some from the West Coast, but only one from England. That was Dan’s proposal.
“I’m English, 30ish, have family in Brooklyn and New Jersey,” he wrote. “(I) have been lots to NYC and am most definitely a fan of your country, and particularly the Yanks. I know pretty much no other baseball fans over here in the UK, it’s not even a minority sport. Thankfully there’s an ESPN channel so I get to watch some games.”
If, like me, you’ve been raised as a sports nut, you’ll appreciate the unerring capacity that an irrational love for your sports team has to rear it’s ugly head, at any time.
When it comes to a sports team, I have already grown up with my true love. She’s called Arsenal Football Club, one of the great English soccer teams with a long tradition and history (take note, Chelsea). I have admired from afar the comments on this blog for three years, marveling at and envying the knowledge you Yankee fans have on your team. I can reciprocate – but only with respect to the Arsenal, and few of you are interested in the movie that plays regularly in my head, with the hero appearing at the far post in the last minute of the 1979 FA Cup to clinch one of the all time classic finals.
I grew up happy with my team. True, they were pretty poor through much of the 80s, as I went from child to teenager, but they were mine, and they were enough for me.
And then, in 1996 of all years, under the influence of my brother who lives in New York, I stayed awake late one October night to watch my first ever live baseball. Most of us over here are cynical, sneering, quintessentially ‘English’ about US sports in general. We dismiss baseball as “rounders”. The heavy reliance on stats, we say, is a clear indicator of a sport with no soul.
How wrong can a nation be?
That Series in 96 enhanced my view of America for good, and opened my eyes to the wonderment of (Yankee) baseball. The U.S. is a misunderstood nation abroad at the best of times, but for me it embodies much that is wonderful in the world, and the Yankees have captured my imagination ever since I first heard the thwack of a ball fired from Andy Pettitte’s left paw into Jim Leyritz’s waiting glove.
True, UZR and WAR sometimes seem beyond my ken. I still struggle not to pin too much depression onto one defeat, or to hang over-optimism onto a solitary win. But I read this blog every single day. I hang on the news of new signings, at weird hours of the night the Macbook gleefully informs me of another Mariano save, I pay $15 per month just to see 3 or 4 Yankee games on ESPN “America”.
In my heart I have found there is space for both Arsenal and the Yankees. Plenty of space. The Yankee Universe is aptly named, friends…